The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan


The Dark Knight RisesFor a large part of its long runtime, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is riveting and conjures up messy themes and moral paradoxes that question the assumptions of the genre the film belongs to. The canvas is bigger than ever in the trilogy, the narrative knottier and the possibilities richer. The film is marked by a preponderance of vertical movements – Bane’s ascent from the sewers, Wayne’s escape from the pit, the Batman’s flight from the cops – and I guess one could tenuously map this to the notion of a Freudian return of the politically (Gotham’s seemingly huge underclass) and psychologically repressed (Wayne’s childhood trauma). But The Dark Knight Rises pursues no such apple-cart-upsetting ideas to completion and instead chooses to couch itself in the rarefied realm of Batman mythos, where the stakes for the non-fan are nearly non-existent. Nolan’s film channels everything from the Old Testament (Gotham as Sodom, Blake as Noah, the plagues, the Great Deluge), through the French and the October revolutions (the storming of Bastille, the twilight of the tsars), to the recent Occupy movements in America in a way that only politically non-committed studio products can afford to. That does not, however, mean that the film has no political viewpoint. Vehemently reactionary, The Dark Knight Rises nearly reduces every issue to a question of bad parenting. The film is rife with appeals for the need of responsible fathers and father figures, with the incurably paternal Batman being something of a godfather overlooking his hapless Gothamite children. (There’s a chuckle to be found when you see Gordon unveiling a statue of the Batman). And yet, I’ve not seen a film as classically solemn and tonally consistent all this year, with all other movies coming across as glorified sitcoms in comparison.

Unknown (2011) 
Jaume Collet-Serra


UnknownJaume Collet-Serra’s Unknown (2011) is the kind of movie that typifies straightforward PG-13 Hollywood thriller – star-driven, homogenized visuals with a strong primary color scheme (with a dominance of metallic blue, as usual), elaborate set pieces that could be moved around within the film, a pulsating score that vies with the boisterous sound design, with allegros of action separated by adagios of emotion, unapologetic about its generic nature with a plot detailed enough to claim seriousness and sketchy enough to avoid offending anyone and, of course, the solitary cuss word. Liam Neeson, who looks aptly like an ex-secret agent coming out of retirement, with his haggard appearance, wrinkled skin and receding hairline, is an American professor whose identity is stolen during his trip to a bio-conference in Berlin. With the rug of reality pulled off his feet, he must find a way to get back into the original social order with the help of a gorgeous working class sidekick (Diane Kruger), who knows all the seedy localities in the city, and an ex-Stasi officer (Bruno Ganz, also serving as the home star), who believes that Germans are very forgetful about history. Unknown channels wrong-man thrillers such as North by Northwest (1959), as well as Polanski’s Frantic (1988), but strips them of their psychosexual dimension, presenting a work that is solely concerned with mechanics of the genre and craft of the profession (the central car chase is sort of inspired, with its heady interleaving of vertical, horizontal and deep-space movements). The bunch of passages that pique your interest (the ostentatious scene at the museum, the confrontation between Langella and Ganz, both of whose best-known roles are infamous historical characters) are also the ones entirely superfluous.